Coast Guard encounters more problems at site of sunken fishing vessel

Posted: Sunday, August 26, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) -- A second Coast Guard attempt to videotape the sunken fishing vessel Arctic Rose at the bottom of the Bering Sea has run into problems -- snarled lines and bad weather that drove investigators back to Dutch Harbor on Saturday.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman in Juneau said the civilian research vessel Ocean Explorer, enlisted for the investigation, had been forced back to Dutch Harbor by bad weather Saturday.

Coast Guard officials looking into the April 2 sinking -- the worst commercial fishing accident in years, with 15 lives lost -- hope to try again when the weather clears, she said.

On Friday, attempts to use a video-camera-equipped remote-operated vehicle, or ROV, were impeded by flailing lines that entangled the equipment. The camera had to be retrieved for repairs.

Efforts to get a look at the wreck earlier this week were hampered by high seas. The weather calmed Friday, but strong surface currents made it difficult to maneuver the ROV.

''This has been a frustrating day to say the least,'' said Capt. Ron Morris, head of a three-man Board of Investigation into the sinking, in a Friday telephone interview with The Seattle Times.

The effort to scrutinize the wreckage has been plagued with problems.

In mid-July, investigators got a brief view of the sunken boat -- sitting upright on the sea floor -- before the remotely operated vehicle transmitting pictures got tangled in the wreckage. The cable controlling it snapped, and the $100,000 search vehicle was lost under 450 feet of water.

The vessel went down before dawn April 2, in relatively calm seas, without a distress call -- leaving no clues to why it went down

At hearings earlier this summer in Seattle and Anchorage, the Coast Guard board heard from former crew members and shipyard personnel who worked on the Arctic Rose over the years. Some raised concerns about its stability with a heavy load.

Vessel owner Dave Olney -- whose brother Mike was engineer on the Arctic Rose's last voyage and died with the others -- declined to testify on the advice of his attorneys.

On Friday, Michael E. Olney's name was added to the Fisherman's Memorial ''Safe Return'' in Bellingham's Zuanich Point Park.

The Bellingham-born Olney, 46, of Kendall, left a wife and two sons. He had been a commercial fisherman all his working life.

All 15 crewmembers' names -- and those of six other fishers who died at sea -- were added in May to the memorial at Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal, which now bears 640 names.

Nationally, about 250 people die each year in the commercial fishing industry.

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